PINE64 unboxing and first look: a real 64-bit “supercomputer” for $15?

Late in 2015, the Kickstarter community was agog with news of the PINE64 – the world’s first 64-bit, quad-core, 1.2Ghz single board computer with promised Android and Linux support, capable of 4k video playback, hosting a broad range of expansion modules and interfaces, versatile enough to run almost anything you could cook up for it, and starting at the almost unbelievable price of $15.

I signed on for the Kickstarter as soon as I heard about it, and today – exactly 4 months after backing that Kickstarter – the PINE64 team delivered. Let’s take a look at what the postman brought me from from the manufacturing team at the Tairan Science Park, Futian, China.

PIN64+
A PINE64+, WiFi/Bluetooth module and reset switch.

Yep, a PINE64+ 2GB board, and a little Wifi 802.11BGN/ Bluetooth 4.0 Module that plugs directly onto the board. Also a hardware reset switch I can solder to the PINE64+ if I really want to – there’s a bit of a story attached to that, which we’ll get to later.

The Kickstarter made three versions of the board available – the regular PINE64, the PINE64+ with 1GB of memory, and the PINE64+ 2GB version (which, surprisingly enough, comes with 2GB of on-board DDR3 RAM).

PINE64 Specs

What do you get for that paltry $15, $19 or $29? Here’s what’s on each board:

PINE64 PINE64+ PINE64+ 2GB
64bit Quad Core ARM A53 1.2GHz CPU 64bit Quad Core ARM A53 1.2GHz CPU 64bit Quad Core ARM A53 1.2GHz CPU
Dual Core Mali 400-MP2 GPU Dual Core Mali 400-MP2 GPU Dual Core Mali 400-MP2 GPU
512MB DDR3 SDRAM 1GB DDR3 SDRAM 2GB DDR3 SDRAM
MicroSD Slot Supports up to 256GB MicroSD Slot Supports up to 256GB MicroSD Slot Supports up to 256GB
10/100 Mb Ethernet port 10/100/1000 MB Ethernet port 10/100/1000 MB Ethernet port
2 x USB 2.0 host 2 x USB 2.0 host 2 x USB 2.0 host
4K x 2K HDMI port 4K x 2K HDMI port 4K x 2K HDMI port
3.5mm Stereo Output mini-jack with Microphone Support 3.5mm Stereo Output mini-jack with Microphone Support 3.5mm Stereo Output mini-jack with Microphone Support
Muti-Channel Audio output through HDMI Muti-Channel Audio output through HDMI Muti-Channel Audio output through HDMI
Real-Time Clock capability built in Real-Time Clock capability built in Real-Time Clock capability built in
Built in 3.7V Lithium battery charging circuit Built in 3.7V Lithium battery charging circuit Built in 3.7V Lithium battery charging circuit
5 Megapixel Camera Port 5 Megapixel Camera Port
4 lanes MIPI video Port 4 lanes MIPI video Port
Touch Panel Port Included Touch Panel Port Included

Depending on where you are in the world, shipping came in at between $7 and $11 – for an extra $4 over the base system, you’d be crazy to go for anything less than the PINE64+, and I’m sure nobody’s going to begrudge the extra $14 to make it a 2GB device either. You really don’t want to skimp on the memory for a device that’s potentially this powerful.

A little disappointingly, WiFi/Bluetooth isn’t built in like it is on the Raspberry Pi 3, so I had to spring another $10 (almost) for the Wifi/Bluetooth module.

Operating Systems

One of the big claims of the PINE team was the ability to run various operating systems on their board – Android Lollipop 5.1, Remix OS, xbmc, openHAB or Ubuntu were all slated for availability at launch. So far, Ubuntu is still “under development” and various folks are reporting problems getting Lollipop up and running with full Google Play store support. Right now I’m downloading Remix and hope to have a chance to get deep into installing it in the next couple days. In the meantime, check out the PINE Wiki for details on what images are available and the various issues with running them.

Of course the big question is, is it really a “supercomputer”? For the price, it’s a reasonably capable single board computer, but it’s barely ahead of the Rapsberry Pi 3 in many respects. Because of the lack of Linux support for some of the more interesting chips on the board, it’s not clear when that capabilities going to be unlocked – and Allwinner aren’t exactly noted for their awesome open-source support. Ah well. For me, this board’s an interesting little device that I’ll probably set up as a TV-connected Android machine, but we’ll see. Experiments and more reports to follow!

Photos

PINE64+ and WiFi module
PINE64+ and WiFi module
PINE64 SoC
Close up of the Allwinner A64 chip

To find out more about the PINE 64 or to pre-order your own, visit www.pine64.com

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